What Is Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lung. It can be caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Pneumonia causes inflammation in your lung’s air sacs, or alveoli. The alveoli fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.
Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening. The severity of your pneumonia usually depends on:
Keep reading to learn about what causes pneumonia as well as its symptoms. You should call your doctor if you have any concerns. Severe pneumonia is a medical emergency.
Types and Causes of PneumoniaBacterial Pneumonia
Bacterial pneumonia can affect anyone at any age. It can develop on its own or after a
There are five major types of pneumonia. They are:
serious cold or flu. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Bacterial pneumonia can also be caused byChlamydophila pneumonia or Legionella pneumophila. Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is sometimes seen in those who have weak immune systems due to illnesses like AIDS or cancer.
In most cases, respiratory viruses can cause pneumonia, especially in young children and the elderly. Pneumonia is usually not serious and lasts a short time. However, the flu virus can cause viral pneumonia to be severe or fatal. It’s especially harmful to pregnant women or individuals with heart or lung issues. Invading bacteria can cause complications with viral pneumonia.
Mycoplasma organisms are not viruses or bacteria, but they have traits common to both. They are the smallest agents of disease that affect humans. Mycoplasmas generally cause mild cases of pneumonia, most often in older children and young adults.
Other Types of Pneumonia
Many additional types of pneumonia affect immune-compromised individuals. Tuberculosis and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) generally affect people with suppressed immune systems, such as those who have AIDS. In fact, PCP can be one of the first signs of illness in people with AIDS.
Less common types of pneumonia can also be serious. Pneumonia can be caused by inhaling food, dust, liquid, or gas, as well as by various fungi.
Part 3 of 7: Risk Factors
Who Is at Risk for Developing Pneumonia?
No one is immune to pneumonia, but there are certain factors that can raise your risks:
Part 4 of 7: Symptoms
What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?
The general symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop quickly and may include:
Some symptoms may indicate a medical emergency. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms:
Part 5 of 7: Diagnosis
How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed?
Pneumonia can be easily overlooked as the cause of an illness because it often resembles a cold or the flu. However, it usually lasts longer and symptoms seem more severe than these other conditions.
Detailed Patient History
To determine whether or not you have pneumonia, your doctors will usually inquire about your signs and symptoms. Questions they may ask include:
Crackling and bubbling sounds in the chest during inhalation are usually indicators of pneumonia. Wheezing may also be present. Your doctor may also have trouble hearing normal breathing sounds in different areas of your chest.
Chest X-rays can be used to determine if infection is present in your lungs. However, chest X-rays won’t show your type of pneumonia. Blood tests can provide a better picture of the type of pneumonia. Also, blood tests are necessary to see if the infection is in your bloodstream.
The following are additional tests that may be required:
Anyone can get pneumonia. It’s commonly a complication of a respiratory infection—especially the flu—but there are more than 30 different causes of the illness. Older adults, children and people with chronic disease, including COPD and asthma, are at high risk for pneumonia.
Pneumonia symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of pneumonia you have, your age and health.
The most common symptoms of pneumonia are:
Additional symptoms include:
Symptoms also can vary, depending on whether your pneumonia is bacterial or viral.
Many different germs can cause pneumonia. There are five main causes of pneumonia:
If you have viral pneumonia, you also are at risk of getting bacterial pneumonia.
Understanding the cause of pneumonia is important because pneumonia treatment depends on its cause. Learn more about what causes pneumonia.
Anyone can get pneumonia, but some people are at a higher risk than others.
Risk factors (that increase your chances of getting pneumonia) include:
How Is Pneumonia Treated?
The type of treatment prescribed for pneumonia mostly depends on what type of pneumonia is present, as well as how severe it is. In many cases, pneumonia can be treated at home.
The typical treatment plan for pneumonia includes taking all prescribed medications and participating in follow-up care. A chest X-ray may be ordered to make sure your pneumonia has been successfully treated.
Treating Bacterial Pneumonia
Antibiotics are used to treat this type of pneumonia. Antibiotics should be taken as directed. If you stop taking the antibiotics before treatment is complete, the pneumonia may return. Most people will improve after one to three days of treatment.
Treating Viral Pneumonia
Antibiotics are useless if a virus is the cause of pneumonia. However, certain antiviral drugs can help treat the condition. Symptoms usually clear within one to three weeks.
Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?
Anyone with diabetes, asthma, and other severe or chronic health problems is at risk for pneumonia. However, in many cases, it can be prevented with vaccines against bacterial pneumonia and flu. Quitting smoking will definitely lower your risk of pneumonia.
Wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, diapering, and before eating or preparing foods.
Tobacco damages your lung’s ability to fight off infection, and smokers have been found to be at higher risk of getting pneumonia. Smokers are considered one of the high risk groups that are encouraged to get the pneumococcal vaccine.
If you have children, talk to their doctor about:
If you have cancer or HIV, talk to your doctor about additional ways to prevent pneumonia and other infections.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. One that protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is calledpneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), and it is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax.
The pneumococcal vaccine prevents serious blood, brain, and lunginfections from the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Such infections are called pneumococcal disease — they also include pneumonia,meningitis, and septicemia.
Pneumococcal disease is a serious health threat that can lead to death. Many strains of Streptococcus pneumonia are resistant to antibiotics. Infection with the bacteria is a leading cause of serious illness in adults and children worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more people die from pneumococcal disease each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. One that protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), and it is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax. PPSV23 is made using dead bacteria. The dead germs cannot make you sick.
The other is pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV13 (brand namePrevnar 13), which is routinely given to infants and toddlers, but was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in adults ages 50 and older. It protects against up to 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.
The pneumococcal vaccine can be given at any time of the year. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) is recommended for the following adults:
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is recommended for the following adults:
It’s now recommended that adults ages 65 and older get both vaccines. Adults age 65 or older who are need to get both should get the PCV13 vaccine first, followed by PPSV23 6 to 12 months later. If an adult was already vaccinated with PPSV23, he or she should receive the PCV13 vaccine a year or more later.
Who Needs a Booster Shot of the Pneumococcal Vaccine?
Some people may need a booster shot after 5 years. The doctor will recommend a second dose of PPSV23 if you are an adult between ages 19 and 64 who has:
Adults over age 65 who received PPSV23 before age 65 also need a booster shot if it has been more than 5 years since being vaccinated.
Who Should Not Get the Pneumococcal Vaccine?
You should NOT get the PPSV23 or the PCV13 vaccine if you have had:
If you are moderately to severely ill, your doctor may recommend waiting to get the shot until after you recover. The CDC says you can still get the vaccines if you have a mild illness, such as a cold or low-grade fever.
It is not known whether the PPSV23 and PCV13 vaccines are safe to get during pregnancy; there have been no reports of harm to babies whose mothers received the vaccine before realizing they were pregnant. Pregnant women should only receive these vaccinations if they are clearly needed.
What Are the Side Effects and Risks of the Pneumococcal Vaccine?
Like all vaccines, both PPSV23 and PCV13 can have side effects. But the risk of harm or death from either is extremely rare.
Reported side effects are similar for both vaccines. Some people may have mild swelling, redness, and soreness where the shot was given. This goes away in a few days.
Less than 1% of people who receive these vaccines may have:
Rarely, someone may have a severe allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccines. Most of the time, such reactions occur within a few minutes of receiving a pneumococcal vaccine. The following can be signs of a severe allergic reaction: